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To get rid of suffering, pass through a higher suffering || On Vivekachudamani (2018)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
23 min
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यावद्वा यत्किंचिद्विषदोषस्फूर्तिरस्ति चेद्देहे । कथमारोग्याय भवेत्तद्वदहन्तापि योगिनो मुक्त्यै ॥

yāvadvā yatkiṃcidviṣadoṣasphūrtirasti ceddehe kathamārogyāya bhavettadvadahantāpi yogino muktyai

As long as there is even a trace of poison left in the body, how can one hope for complete recovery? Even so, the yogi cannot attain liberation as long as a trace of egoism remains.

~ Verse 303

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अहमोऽत्यन्तनिवृत्त्या तत्कृतनानाविकल्पसंहृत्या । प्रत्यक्तत्त्वविवेकादिदमहमस्मीति विन्दते तत्त्वम् ॥

ahamo'tyantanivṛttyā tatkṛtanānāvikalpasaṃhṛtyā pratyaktattvavivekādidamahamasmīti vindate tattvam

By the complete cessation of the ego-sense, gained by restraining the diverse mental waves created by the ego itself, and through the discrimination of the innermost Self, one experiences the Reality as ‘I am This’.

~ Verse 304

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तस्मादहंकारमिमं स्वशत्रुं भोक्तुर्गले कण्टकवत्प्रतीतम् । विच्छिद्य विज्ञानमहासिना स्फुटं भुङ्क्ष्वात्मसाम्राज्यसुखं यथेष्टम् ॥

tasmādahaṃkāramimaṃ svaśatruṃ bhokturgale kaṇṭakavatpratītam vicchidya vijñānamahāsinā sphuṭaṃ bhuṅkṣvātmasāmrājyasukhaṃ yatheṣṭam

Therefore, with the great sword of Realization, destroying this ego-sense, your enemy, which is like a thorn in the throat of a man who is eating, enjoy directly and freely the Bliss of Your own Sovereignty, the Majesty of the Self.

~ Verse 307

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Questioner: My suffering is tremendous due to this big wound that I am carrying, the ego, and I will have to cut it out on my own. Is there a sharp sword available to remove this wound and its cancerous nature?

Acharya Prashant: If you think that the ego is suffering, then you must also know that the elimination of the ego or disidentification with the ego involves suffering even greater. The suffering due to the ego persists and continues precisely because there is greater suffering involved in the elimination of the ego. The equation is simple. Had it been ego and suffering on one side and simple joy and freedom on the other side, the choice would have been straightforward and obvious. But it’s not quite so straightforward, even though it actually is.

To get rid of suffering, one has to be prepared to pass through even more suffering. Therein lies the catch.

Even the quantum of suffering that one currently experiences bugs and bothers, and therefore one tries several methods to eliminate suffering, including the spiritual methods. So, the very motivation is to somehow remove suffering. Now, to remove suffering, there are genuine methods and phony methods. What’s the mark of a fake method? A fake method for the removal of suffering does not go to the roots of suffering; it merely suppresses or silences the conscious manifestation and experience of suffering, and in that there is pleasure. All fake methods of suffering deal with the manifestations, expressions of suffering, and the seeker finds that important because the seeker himself is not bothered with the seeds of suffering. What has troubled the seeker is the experience of suffering. We must discriminate between these two—the seed of suffering and the conscious manifestation, the sensual and mental experience of suffering.

The seed cannot be experienced, and therefore most people have no grudge, no complaint against the very seed of suffering. People start noticing and complaining and striving only when the seed sprouts, gains strength, gains volume, becomes apparent and experienceable; then the experience is bothersome, like a tumor reaching advanced stages. In the initial stages when it was a bit in the seed form, then the trouble was lying unmanifest, relatively dormant, so the trouble could not be noticed or experienced. Remember that one does not go to a physician to get rid of the disease if the disease produces no symptoms, if the disease remains hidden, latent. There are so many people who would adjust to it, compromise with it. One goes to the physician when the disease starts giving troublesome experiences.

So, most people are bothered just with the elimination of the experience of suffering; that’s their aim. And if you are concerned just with the elimination of the experience of suffering, then there is an easy and fake way available. You were disliking a type of experience, you called it suffering; you can be given an opposite type of experience that you will call as pleasure or happiness. So, when you experience suffering, there is a very quick and dirty solution available: go to some place, go to some shop where happiness is available. And that is why happiness sells: because happiness is a quick and dirty solution to the ancient and deep problem of human angst, human suffering. Happiness does not relieve one of suffering, but happiness takes your attention away from the symptoms of suffering, and one is done. One says, “Fine!” because the objective has been served.

The genuine method comes with a problem: the genuine method exposes suffering, makes it conscious. We all know that normally only a very little bit of the entirety of mind is available to conscious experience. Conscious experience has been likened to an iceberg: it is just one by nine, a small fraction of that which is really present. So, even if you say that you are suffering, your conscious experience is just one by nine of the total suffering. It’s a tree of which only one by nine is above the surface; the roots are deep, deep in the dark. Eight by nine of the tree is below the surface, below the soil. And you are troubled—you are troubled by what? Just by one by nine. You are so troubled by the one by nine apparent and phenomenal experience that you want to eliminate it, you want to remove it.

But the roots of the tree are deep within, and that is eight times that which is available to experience. To remove that one, to remove that one portion, actually the whole tree has to be uprooted. If only the surface level phenomena is removed, very soon the tree will regrow, branch out again, because it has strong roots. Most of the tree is just roots. The roots are eight times bigger and deeper than the shoots and the trunk and the leaves and the twigs. It’s that kind of a tree.

So, we see that to get rid of the conscious experience of the suffering, we will have to dig deep, dig deep towards the roots. Now begins the pain involved in the procedure. When you start digging deep, that which was not available to experience starts becoming experienceable. Just the one part out of nine was troublesome enough, you were running hither and thither to get rid of that experience, and now more and more of suffering is being unearthed. As you dig deeper, all you come across is more suffering and more suffering, and now there is great incentive for the spiritual seeker to run away. He says, “One part was intolerable, just one part was intolerable, and now I have two parts and three parts and four parts and five parts. Did I move into spirituality to get rid of suffering or to exacerbate it?” He will go away. Who will remain? Only the one who wants to see the whole thing through to its end. One’s commitment has to be very deep and one must not be merely wanting the elimination of the superficial symptoms. One must be stubborn, one must be devoted enough and wise enough to uproot the whole tree. But that would mean going through much more suffering than that which seemed to exist in the first place.

So, the real process, the genuine process involves something counterintuitive. You start on the spiritual path to get rid of one part of suffering, and to actually remove that one part, you must face eight more parts. Normally this cannot happen, because even that one part was intolerable. If one part was intolerable, how is one going to face eight more parts? So, the process won’t proceed for long, the process won’t fructify. One would start bickering and cribbing; one would say, “What kind of medicine is this that is only enhancing the pain?” One would say, “I came to get rid of my condition, but the medicine has only worsened my condition.” And when one would be saying that, that would not be false. One’s complaints cannot be just brushed away. It is a fact that the spiritual seeker, the genuine man, goes through much more suffering than the ordinary, normal man.

So, do not be too bothered about the suffering that you experience. If that which you experience bothers you, then you will not be able to go through that which is needed to be gone through. It is a fallacy that life for the spiritual man is free of suffering; it does not happen that way. In fact, the spiritual man is the one who is capable of going through much more suffering than the ordinary man.

That brings us to the question, what sustains his resilience? What powers him to go through all this suffering? The answer will surprise you. The answer is that he is able to go through so much suffering because he has something that remains untouched by suffering. He is able to go through a lot of suffering because he does not really suffer. He suffers and yet not; he suffers and does not. Does he suffer? Of course, yes. Does he not suffer? Of course, yes. He has a great unending reserve of joy, and that is what empowers him to bear all the suffering. He has something that is much more important, valuable, immediate and intimate than suffering; that is what takes him through. Otherwise, how would you crossover? It’s a tough battle, it’s an arduous proposition; it’s an entire ocean of suffering. You must have something within that emboldens you to invite suffering. You must have something central, so central that suffering starts appearing peripheral.

So, do not ask me how to get rid of the ego and its pangs. Turn towards yourself and ask, do you have that which will enable you to bear any suffering? It’s a weak man who does not want to suffer. The strong one does not ask for eradication of suffering; the strong one asks merely for more strength. The weak mind says, “Let there be no suffering.” He has no option but to request this. “Let there be no suffering, because I am not strong enough to bear it.” The strong mind, the spiritual mind says, “Let there be suffering. All I want is the intimacy of that which will enable me to go through all the suffering without breaking down.”

That is a mistake that so many seekers make: they want removal of suffering, which is not possible. Instead, they should ask themselves, is something beyond suffering present in their life? If you are born, if you are a human being, if you are an embodied being, then suffering is inevitable. And if you are a seeker, then even more suffering is inevitable. Who told you that the realized ones do not suffer? They joyfully suffer. That’s the only difference between them and the normal sufferers. The normal sufferer curses and complains; the mystic, the man of God, suffers and suffers so deeply that he dances. And since he can dance even in his pain, so he is blessed with more pain and more dance.

If you want to just dance without pain, then your dance will be hollow. If you are someone who has no capacity for pain, then your dance, your work, your life, your poetry, your love, all will be hollow. You cannot be a lover without having great potential for pain. Great poetry arises only from deep suffering, but deep suffering is available only to those who are deeply joyful; otherwise, suffering will break you down.

Mediocre and tepid minds have neither joy nor suffering. All they have is a shallow existence dealing with very ordinary experiences. Only large hearts can get broken, because they allow themselves to be broken, because they know that even if they are broken a thousand times, they would still be put together by something more powerful than suffering. Small minds quaver; they seek armors, they run for shelter, and they must do that because their self-concept is that they will be destroyed against adversities. The strong mind revels in adversities, he invites wounds.

Sukhiya sab sansaar hai, khaave or soye (The world is merrily eating and sleeping)”—that’s the common man dealing in shallow happiness. Eat and sleep—that’s the life of the common man. And dedicate your life to earning, eating and sleeping. What else does the common man do? “ Dukhiya das Kabir hai, jaage or roye (Gloomy is Kabir, he is awake and weeps).” That’s the man of God for you—capable of awakening and capable of suffering, jaage or roye . So, if you are someone who is seeking sukha , then don’t come to Kabir; then you should go to the ordinary mortals; there you will find a lot of sukha , pleasure. With God, you get a lot of tears. If you are someone who has no capacity for tears, don’t come to God.

Gagan dam dama baajiya, padiya ni sani ghao, kheth buhareya sooramaa, mohe maran ka chao (The war cries have started sounding in the sky, the target is aimed at; the soldier has cleared the battleground, I am eager to die now).” That’s the attitude of the spiritual mind— mohe maran ka chao . The ordinary mind runs away from battles and possibilities of losses; the spiritual mind invites battles, wounds. He says, “My wounds are like sacred marks on the body. I don’t need to wear a tilak ; the scars on my face are enough.” Tilak and all such other sacred signs are so superficial; they can get washed off. But when you are a real fighter, then the scars on your body stay. Not only do they stay, they keep getting multiplied. That’s the mark of the genuine man— padiya nisani ghao, mohe maran ka chao .

But most people do not come to spirituality because they are inclined towards their own elimination. If I ask you, “Enter only if you are agreeable to your death!” then this hall would be vacant. If a form is circulated at the entrance, “ Marne ka chao hai (Are you prepared to die)? Yes: enter. No: go to your home”—who would be here? But Kabir is saying, “ Mohe maran ka chao. Not that I am merely agreeing to death, not that I am compromising; I am actually fond of dying. Mohe maran ka chao. I am fond of taking on suffering.”

But again and again I get questions that are just asking one thing: “How do I get rid of suffering?” And I wonder, who told you that at this place one gets rid of suffering? The fact is, you were not suffering greatly before you came to this place. Those who come here and start living here, they are the ones who really encounter suffering. If you want to know what suffering really means, then meet the people of BodhSthal, read their lives, read their experiences. They are the ones who have now admitted, rather invited suffering into their life. Only a deep mind can know deep suffering. For shallow minds there is only shallow pleasure and shallow pain—a little bit of happiness, a little bit of sadness. Beyond that they have no appetite; beyond that they anyway cannot take or digest.

For deep minds, there is depth in everything that they experience, that they go through. They know depths of disappointment, and they also know heights of ecstasy. And those who are not prepared to go through depths of disappointment will forever miss the heights of ecstasy. It is, remember, ecstasy that powers you to bear disappointment; otherwise, disappointment is unbearable.

And now you know why this world is so afraid of pain: because it has no stamina, no strength, no depth to bear pain. That’s the reward to the deep mind, to the spiritual mind—novel, distinguished, extraordinary suffering. Doesn’t sound too attractive, does it? If you have been brought to spirituality by the hope that life would be full of pure joy and undiluted bliss and unending happiness once you read the scriptures or meditate, or go through the spiritual practices, or sit in religious gatherings, then your hope needs to be dashed.

Spirituality is not freedom from suffering in the ordinary sense of freedom. Spirituality is depth in suffering. Spirituality does not free you of suffering; spirituality frees you of shallowness. Suffering would remain, shallowness would go, so you won’t have shallow suffering anymore; now you would have deep, deep suffering. Most of you would be finding all this quite abhorrent, but some of you might be inexplicably tempted, some of you might be feeling a mystical pull towards the pain I am talking of. God is only for those who experience that mystical pull towards a pain that cannot be explained.

So, you are asking me for a method to get rid of the suffering. The method is more suffering. But to go through more suffering, come close to that which is untouched by suffering, that which is beyond suffering. Come close to that. If you are troubled by the dirt that you see in your house and you intend a cleanup, then you should be prepared to see even more dirt. The dirt that you are currently seeing is superficial, a tiny fraction, one by nine of that which remains hidden. So, do not ask for superficial liberation from dirt. Ask for a hard broom and ask for lungs solid and healthy enough and arms strong enough. That’s what you must ask for. A mind that does not recoil when it sees its own dirty face—that’s the kind of mind that is needed.

People come to spirituality expecting to see beauties. They say, “ Satyam Shivam Sundaram . The Truth is indeed beautiful, is it not, Acharya Ji?” Yes, the Truth is indeed beautiful, but you are not. And before you can see the beautiful face of Truth, you will have to go through layers and layers of your own ugliness. If you are fond of beauty, you must be prepared to look at ugliness straight and square; otherwise all you would get is some makeup. Real beauty would remain elusive; in the name of beauty, you would just cover up the ugliness.

And these are the two methods to be beautiful. The fake method is to cover up the dirt with makeup. The face is indeed ugly and dirty, nothing but filth accumulated since centuries, and you cover it up—a paint job. This is the phony method. The genuine method is to keep peeling off the ugly faces. And you cannot close your eyes as you are peeling them off; you will have to look at them, and you will have to accept that so much ugliness indeed does exist. And when all the faces are gone, and neither faces are left nor are you left to peel the faces off, then all that is left is beauty. It is not beauty in the ordinary sense of the word; it is not beauty that you can admire from a distance. It is beauty for the beautiful one. It is beauty in which you are the beautiful one. It is beauty in which the beholder of the beauty is himself the beautiful one.

Believe me, if you are someone whose life is normal and largely free of suffering, then you are either a Buddha or a very cheap thug; you are either someone who has crossed over, or a retarded and cowered mind that has not yet even dived in. Being born as a human being, it is impossible to live a so-called happy life. Beware the happy man. He is very dangerous, to himself and to everybody. Be very cautious of the ones who are found mostly smiling and in good moods. They are hiding their teeth and their fangs. Those smiles are both ignorance and violence.

You may find all the CEOs and the go-getters smiling on their Facebook profiles. How often have you seen a Christ smiling? Any representation of Krishna in which you can see his teeth? Ever seen Rama smiling? Any statue, anywhere, at any time? Their face has been made mature by suffering. They are ripe. They don’t giggle like a juvenile or like an American CEO. Even when Kabir says, “ Paani me meen pyaasi, sun sun aave mohe haasi (I laugh on hearing that being inside the water, the fish is thirsty),” rest assured, he was speaking with a straight face. They were not sad; they were just deep.

Not laughing does not mean sadness; it only means you are not excited. Happiness is a kind of excitement. And if you are not happy, that does not mean you have to be necessarily sad. And there is great beauty when you are neither happy nor sad, when you are just deep. When you are just deep, then your face is as beautiful as that of a Kabir, as that of a Buddha or Mahavira. You cannot imagine a Mahavira guffawing, or can you? And even if a Bodhidharma does come up with raucous laughter, even that laughter has depth. And for laughter to have depth, there has to be deep suffering.

Laughter is so beautiful when you are smiling in the middle of suffering, when you are laughing in the face of suffering. It’s then that laughter is beautiful.

Look at these here (pointing towards the pictures of saints behind him) , look at these faces. They know suffering end to end, and that’s why they are looking at us from where they are. That’s the difference between them and the ordinary man. The ordinary man worships happiness—why? Even ordinary gurus are selling happiness. A very prominent organization in the field of spirituality has become popular by organizing happiness camps. A Krishna would never say that happiness is the aim of life or even important, nor would a Kabir say.

Jhoothe sukh ko sukh kahe, maanat hai man moda; jagat chabaina kaal ka, kuchh mukh mein kuchh goda (They call false happiness as happiness and rejoice in their minds' imaginations; this world is like a side dish for time: half of it in its mouth, the other half lying on its lap).” That’s the difference between the ordinary man and Kabir. The ordinary man is a happiness chaser, and markets and self-help books and gurus sitting in the markets keep providing the ordinary man with happiness— jhoothe sukh ko sukh kahe, maanat hai man moda . In his mind, he keeps thinking, “I am happy!”— maanat hai man moda . That’s the ordinary man for you.

And in the next line you have Kabir: jagat chabaina kaal ka . That’s what Kabir is saying. Right when the ordinary man is celebrating, Kabir is saying, jagat chabaina kaal ka, kuchh mukh mein kuchh goda . Kabir is looking at this man in all his revelry and saying, “You are being devoured by death and destruction, and you are so afraid that you cannot even see that. And you are so afraid that to avoid the fact of your death and destruction, you keep pretending to be happy.”

Spirituality is not there to deliver you happiness. And if you find somebody, anybody selling happiness in the name of spirituality, run away. Meeting a Guru is a catastrophe; it is a calamity that you have only partially invited. It’s a winter morning, and somebody comes and says, “I am going to throw cold water upon you.” You can be mentally prepared, but still you would be only half prepared. When the water would fall upon you, the experience would beat all your preparation.

You can never be fully prepared for the catastrophic experience that a Guru brings to you. You are broken down beyond your expectations and beyond your preparation. Ten times a day, you curse the moment when you came in touch with the Guru, and you cry out, “My life has been destroyed!” And you aren’t blabbering, for a change you are spot on. Yes, your life has been destroyed. That’s exactly what the Guru intended to do—destroy your life.

Some of you would be finding this scary, the others would be finding it mysteriously appealing. They are the ones I am looking forward to. The others, I just want them to be too afraid to come any closer. Decide. Where do you belong? What do you want?

There is no joy without suffering. It is only when you are shivering to the core, and shivering fiercely, shivering badly and madly, that all your dirt and garbage falls off.

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